Development of Buddhism in South Asia

In the century BC, a kingdom called Magadha was founded in North India, with Pataliputra it’s capital. The greatest king was Ashoka who was well-known as a cruel king. The prison he built for people who opposed him was called Ashoka Hell.

However, after losing a war against the Kalinga kingdom in South India, he changed his attitude. The terrible war took a very large number of deaths, so Ashoka was deeply moved and promised himself that he would not fight another war.

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His cruelty and despotism were paid off by choosing Buddhism as his religion and life guidance. He also declared Buddhism as the state religion and principle of government. He managed to unite the whole of India during his reign. He also built not less than 48.000 stupas, the most famous of which was located in Sanchi, central India.

King Ashoka did not only develop Buddhism in his own country. He also sent messengers to other countries, such as Greece, Syria, and Egypt. Yet the attempt to spread Buddhism westward was not successful.

On the contrary, the spread of Buddhism in Srilanka which was led by his two sons and a number of Buddhist monks under Mahinda was quite successful. They succeeded in persuading King Tissa to profess Buddhism and a lot of his people followed him.

Then Tissa built a center of Buddhism in Anuradhapura. In addition, he built a Buddist monastery named Tuparama in Kandy. In the Tuparama monastery, a tooth of Buddha was kept in a small box decorated with jewels.

Buddhism also developed in Tibet, a snowy region on the foot of the Himalayas mountain range. The Buddhism that developed in Tibet underwent a lot of changes, so it became a sect that was quite different from the original Buddhism.

The Buddhist leader in Tibet was called Lama. The title Dalai was given by Mongolian princes to honor the holy man. Dalai Lama does not only act as a spiritual leader but also a leader of the Tibetan people. This spiritual leader of Tibet lives in the Potala monastery, the world’s largest monastery in Lhasa. Buddhist people believe that Dalai Lama is the reincarnation of Buddha.

Read also: Characteristics of Hindu Buddhist historical remains in Various region in Indonesia

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